By now the story formula is well known. A reporter or columnist will trot out Oklahoma’s mind-boggling illiteracy statistics, profile a recovering illiterate, then end with some warm fuzzies about reading to your kids or becoming a volunteer tutor for an adult literacy organization.
The example du jour, a story in today's Oklahoman, tells us that "more than 137,000 adults in Oklahoma County are considered functionally illiterate. About 20 percent of people in the Oklahoma City metro area cannot read the newspaper or fill out job applications."
Articles promoting adult literacy have their place, but why must they always ignore the corpse at the dinner party? Surely I’m not the only one who wonders, “How did we end up with 137,000 illiterates in this county? I thought schools were supposed to teach people to read.”
“The full truth can’t be told,” Joseph Sobran once remarked, “if some subjects have to be danced around like Uncle Harry’s drinking problem.” Let’s be honest: these illiterates have been to school, for crying out loud. Does Oklahoma really need another literacy program? We already have more than 1,800 of them. They’re called schools, and taxpayers are already pouring billions of hard-earned dollars into them.
Let’s review: (a) Oklahoma has a compulsory attendance law which mandates school attendance from ages 5 to 18; (b) 95 percent of Oklahoma students attend a public school; and yet (c) 137,000 adults in Oklahoma County are considered functionally illiterate.
Isn’t it about time someone confronted poor Uncle Harry? I mean, this is getting a little out of hand. I’m not asking that every child become a National Merit scholar, but at $11,250 annually per child even if the schools taught the children nothing else they could at least teach them to read.